Cambridge Design unveils life-saving oxygen generator

A lightweight, portable oxygen generator has been developed to save the lives of injured soldiers on the frontline.

Designed for the Ministry of Defence by the Cambridge Design Partnership, the system uses an integrated miniature diesel engine to reduce its overall weight and volume compared with existing portable oxygen units.

‘Instead of using oxygen bottles, which are very heavy and dangerous on the front line, we came up with a solution of using an oxygen concentrator,’ said Stephen Lamb, a consultant at Cambridge Design Partnership.

‘The problem is you need a fair amount of power to operate that type of system. We were looking for something like 100W and, while batteries can deliver that, for the longevity we’re looking for, they are just too heavy.’

Diesel is far more energy dense than batteries and can be scavenged if necessary from ground-based vehicles or local sources. According to Lamb, just a small amount of diesel in the engine could provide oxygen for four to five hours.

‘In somewhere such as Afghanistan, when a soldier is seriously wounded they will be evacuated by helicopter,’ he said. ‘Usually that takes 30 to 60 minutes. Providing oxygen in that golden hour can dramatically increase survival rates and making it portable is crucial.’

The system also has the potential to use the compact engine as an electrical power source to further reduce the battery burden of dismounted soldiers, which can be as high as 11kg.

A prototype has already been successfully demonstrated. However, Cambridge Design Partnership is confident that it can miniaturise the system further based on its experience of developing medical equipment for civilian ambulance crews.